It takes a good friend to get up at 5 am to meet me at the gym.
There’s sweat, there are leftover sheet marks on cheeks and by all means, there isn’t any makeup.
I submitted to her get-in-shape-via-cardio-interval plan one morning last month completely unaware of what I was getting myself into. We began on the treadmill and gradually over the course of 20 minutes she had me running at almost seven miles an hour.
“We won’t be able to talk in a minute,” she said to me over the whirr of the early morning gym sounds.
And she was right.
After almost an hour of quadricep-burning, lung-fatiguing intervals we ended up on the stationary bikes.
Except for our treadmill sprints we’d been talking the whole morning. I’m a firm believer in creating relationships through exercise because suffering together is a bonding experience. Marriage and fitting into wedding dresses, friendship and church. We’d talked about it all.
She looked over at me and said, “Can I push you on something?”
She’d been “pushing” me all morning so I wondered what more she could possibly want.
“What happened to your book, Sarah?”
Ugh. THE thing in my life right now that might be the most difficult and most humbling thing to talk about. She wants me to talk about it at 5:45 in the morning.
Last year I’d begun writing a book and I’d gotten nearly halfway finished. A publisher contacted me and looked at my proposal. “I believe in you,” he told me.
My spirit and my heart lifted. Maybe this is it.
“But with the current economy, “He followed, “we’re only taking big authors right now.”
“You are too much of a risk.” Is what he ended with.
I’d known it was a long shot.
So in March I printed out copies of my manuscript, my proposal and the list of publishers that would be at my upcoming writer’s conference.
“It’s too edgy,” one publisher said.
“Have you thought about changing the perspective/format/main idea?” the other publishers mirrored.
I cried. I sat on a bench. Again, I’d known it was a long shot.
So I shelved it.
I haven’t written one word on my manuscript since before I left for Santa Cruz last March.
It sits there on my hard drive gathering digital dust.
So when my friend asked about my book on the stationary bikes, I had nothing to hide. I told her about my frustration, my confusion, my feelings of failure. And she listened.
She had “pushed” me, with the risk of my clamming up or worse being angry at her for asking a question that would make me feel exposed and vulnerable.
But instead I felt loved. And I know she asked because she loved me and was concerned for me.
I’m learning that that is community. Risking friendship, ease of communication and a gym-buddy is worth the closeness and intimacy that comes with both asking hard questions and being willing to answer them.
She knew my dream is to write. She knew that my dream is to see women healed. She knew these things about me and she was willing to participate in maybe the most beautiful and hardest part of community: confrontation, sharpening, questioning.
Because what happens as a result can be amazing.
Do you have a friend who is willing to ask you the hard questions? Are you willing to answer?